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Mail 209 June 10 - 16, 2002






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Monday  June 10, 2002

From Roland:

School Daze:

The subject he gave was, uh, unflattering:



From Rod:

Dr. Singer's possibly the environmental lobby's least popular *US* scientist. This article dates from April:

I suspect, if one of these things is set off, that the newscritters will concentrate much more on the resulting fear rather than the actual damage done. <<NEW ON THE SEPP WEB.url>>

I've known Fred Singer since -- ye gods, the 60's at a Hoover Institution meeting hosted by Edward Teller. He's usually pretty sound.

St. Onge on Stephen Jay Gould

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: Stephen Jay Gould

Dear Jerry:

It isn't particularly surprising that Professor Gould is being criticized as deliberately distorting data, or lying. What's surprising is that anyone ever expected anything else from him. Gould's dishonesty was so transparent it amounted to a weird kind of integrity.

Take his best known scientific work, the theory of "punctuated equilibrium" in evolution. He and Niles Eldredge offered the theory as a way of calling attention to the fact that the fossil record is singularly barren of the transitional forms all forms of Darwinian theory would seem to predict, and offering an explanation for this. "Punctuated equilibrium" says that evolution can be expected to take place mostly in small groups, geographically and reproductively isolated. This will allegedly produce new species in a time frame that is "biologically long" (and thus Darwinian), but "geographically short" (so the transition forms almost certainly won't be fossilized). Fitness enhancing mutations would quickly spread through the small population, causing rapid evolution. Meanwhile, large populations will not evolve to any discernible extent. The sheer size of the population will dilute the effects of the fitness enhancing mutations, because of the time it takes for them to spread through the population. However, the remains of said large populations will constitute essentially the entire fossil record. In sum, small populations will evolve quickly but invisibly, large ones so slowly they are to all intents not evolving at all.

OK, very interesting, let's see the model and work through the equations then we can test it against the data ... Uhm, there appears to be no model. For all practical purposes, the _ASSERTIONS_ listed above are it.

I found this void so striking I tried to model punctuated equilibrium myself. My conclusion was that population size would have absolutely no effect on neo-Darwinian evolution: since random mutation is the starting point, the rate of evolution must be a function of the number of conserved, fitness enhancing mutations. The number of such mutations would be the overall mutation rate per reproducing organism, times the number of reproducing organisms, times the fraction enhancing fitness. The large population would have more fitness enhancing mutations, and this would exactly counterbalance the greater time it takes to spread them through a population.

The only other relevant information I've ever found was in a _Scientific American_ article by population geneticist Motoo Kimura. While expounding his "neutral theory of molecular evolution" (Scientific American V. 241, No. 5, 1979, pp. 98-126), he says that smaller populations should experience a slightly slower rate of Darwinian evolution than large ones.

Or consider the first two collections of Gould's essays from _Natural History_ magazine. In the very first essay of "Ever Since Darwin," Gould responds to an increasingly popular criticism of neo-Darwinian theory: that it is without content. The theory says the "fittest" survive, but then allegedly defines fitness as survival, reducing to the survival of the survivors, a tautology.

Gould answers that, were this true, it would indeed be a devastating criticism of evolutionary theory, but it is in fact false. "Fitness," in the Darwinian sense, is really good design as an engineer would judge it. This is what he says neo-Darwinism predicts. For a specific example, he refers you to his essay on the "Irish Elk" in the same volume.

Turn to the "Elk" essay. Gould asks if the huge size of its antlers might have rendered it unfit to survive, and says not. As evidence, he offers ... nothing at all. Not a sentence in the essay directly address whether smaller antlers might have been a better design from the engineering standpoint. (Indirectly, however, he argues the other side of the question, by saying that the Irish Elk's antlers probably had such a high moment of inertia that when an Elk turned its head rapidly, it risked serious physical injury!). Instead, the essay discusses all kinds of things that have nothing to do with the subject he claimed it addresses.

So if the Irish Elk's huge size generally, and huge antlers specifically weren't factors rendering it unfit, why did it become extinct? Because it 'failed to adapt' (quote approximate). This sort of circular reasoning is precisely what he says neo-Darwinism doesn't engage in! In the face of such open casuistry, how can one be indignant?

The cream of the jest, though, is in his next book, "The Panda's Thumb." There he argues that, contrary to what he said in "Ever Since Darwin," neo-Darwinian theory predicts _BAD_ design. The panda's 'thumb,' formed from an outgrowth of a wrist bone, is Gould's standard illustration of this phenomenon. And how did he happen upon this idea? Though he implies it came from observing a panda in a zoo, both the idea and the specific example are found in one of Arthur Koestler's books critiquing Darwinian theory -- books he several times goes out of his way to criticize as wrong.

I could go on, but why bother? I think Gould must have spent a lot of time privately amused that anyone took his ideas seriously. He sure didn't.

Best, Stephen


And Henry Harpening on St Onge's letter on Stephen Jay Gould:

This is excellent, but your correspondent gives Gould too much credit. The ideas that are clashing in the background are those of RA Fisher and Sewall Wright, and Gould either did not understand them else, as someone suggested to me, he wanted to obscure the background to make his own work seem original and revolutionary.

The great American geneticist Sewall Wright believed that evolution would happen fastest in small nearly isolated subpopulations because he thought that new advantageous combinations of traits were the important innovations in evolution. RA Fisher, on the other hand, thought that new advantageous mutations were the rate limiting factor. Your correspondent is absolutely right about population structure and evolution by new advantageous mutation, but his analysis neglects the non-linearity of combinations.

Imagine, for example, that a better ape could be made if it had (1) a bigger brain and (2) a wider pelvis. But each trait by itself is disadvantageous: big brains lead to obstetric difficulties without the wide pelvis, while the wide pelvis is bad engineering and leads to inefficient locomotion. In a large deterministic Fisher population the combination would never appear, while in a Wright population of nearly isolated demes a population with both big brains and big pelves might occur just through the process of genetic drift. Wright thought of a "fitness surface", in this case think of a brain size axis and a pelvis size axis, with an associated fitness for each combination of brain and pelvis size. There is a peak at small brain and small pelvis size, and another higher peak at a point with a big brain and big pelvis. Evolution drives population mean values uphill, so a large population would sit on the lower peak with no way to "cross the valley" to the higher peak.

In a small population random genetic has the effect of shaking the surface so population mean values wander away from the peak. Once a population by chance entered the zone of attraction of the higher peak it could climb it rapidly and, voila, a new and better species which would then emit emigrants to swamp the other now-inferior demes.

In retrospect this would look like punctuational change. Soon after the Eldredge and Gould papers, Russ Lande and Joel Cohen published papers showing that "punctuated equilibrium" is a trivial consequence of the Wright model, population biologists said "yes, of course", yawned, and paid no more attention. It is difficult to underestimate Gould's influence in evolutionary biology except among paleontologists, where his observation gave them something to write about for a few years.

Shame, because Wright's ideas have been sadly neglected, mostly because it is difficult to do the experiments.

Henry Harpending






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This will be Short Shrift time

Hi Jerry,

I have always loved physics. I just wish I was smarter so I could discover these things rather than just appreciate them.

- Paul

=== Could superconductors transmute electromagnetic radiation into gravitational waves?

I once wrote a story in which you could do that...

Hi Jerry,

Eric Raymond wrote the following on his blog (  ) for Monday, June 10th. It made me smile. I doubt it will earn him any friends. :)

- Paul

=== Top Ten Reasons I'm Not A (Left-)Liberal: 
Gun control. Liberals are completely wrong about this. A fair number of them know better, too, but they sponsor lies about it as a form of class warfare against conservative-leaning gun owners. 
Nuclear power. They're wrong about this, too, and the cost in both dollars and human deaths by pollution and other fossil-fuel side-effects has been enormous. 

Affirmative action. These programs couldn't be a more diabolical or effective plan for entrenching racial prejudice if the Aryan Nations had designed them.

 Abortion: The liberals' looney-toon feminist need to believe that a fetus one second before birth is a parasitic lump of tissue with no rights, but a fetus one second afterwards is a full human, has done half the job of making a reasoned debate on abortion nigh-impossible. 

Communism. I haven't forgiven the Left for sucking up to the monstrous evil that was the Soviet Union. And I never will. 
Socialism. Liberals have never met a tax, a government intervention, or a forcible redistribution of wealth they didn't like. Their economic program is Communism without the guts to admit it. 

Junk science. No medical study is too bogus and no environmental scare too fraudalent for liberals. If it rationalizes bashing capitalism or slathering on another layer of regulatory bureaucracy, they'll take it. 

Defining deviancy down. Liberals are in such a desperate rush to embrace the `victimized by society' and speak the language of compassion that they've forgotten how to condemn harmful, self-destructive and other-destructive behavior. 

William Jefferson Clinton. Sociopathic liar, perjurer, sexual predator. There was nothing but a sucking narcissistic vacuum where his principles should have been. Liberals worship him. Liberals, by and large, are fools. 

Top Ten Reasons I'm Not A Conservative: 

Censorship. The complete absence of evidence that exposure to pornography or sexually-explicit material is harmful to children or anyone else doesn't stop conservatives from advocating massive censorship. 

The War on Drugs. We found out that Prohibition was a bad idea back in the 1930s -- all it did was create a huge and virulent criminal class, erode respect for the law, and corrupt our politics. Some people never learn. 

Creationism. I don't know who I find more revolting, the drooling morons who actually believe creationism or the intelligent panderers who know better but provide them with political cover for their religious-fundamentalist agenda in return for votes.

 Abortion. The conservatives' looney-toon religious need to believe that a fertilized gamete is morally equivalent to a human being has done the other half of making a reasoned debate on abortion nigh-impossible.

 Racism. I haven't forgiven the Right for segregation, Jim Crow laws, and lynching blacks. And I never will. 

Sexism. Way too much conservative thought still reads like an apologia for keeping women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. 

Anti-science. Stem cells, therapeutic cloning -- it doesn't matter how many more diabetes, cancer and AIDS patients have to die to protect the anti-abortion movement's ideological flanks. Knowledge -- who needs it? Conservatives would try suppressing astronomy if the telescope had just been invented. Family values. Conservatives are so desperate to reassert the repressive `normalcy' they think existed in grand-dad's time that they pretend we can undo the effects of the automobile, television, the Pill, and the Internet. And should try to.

 Ronald Wilson Reagan. A B-movie actor who thought ketchup was a vegetable. His grip on reality was so dangerously weak that the Alzheimer's made no perceptible difference. Conservatives worship him. Conservatives, by and large, are villains.

Well, I must confess to villainy then since I am certainly conservative, I hope that the universe and the world were created and have a purpose, and I suspect that men and women are wired differently. Now if Mr. Raymond would care to  believe that Roberta Pournelle and Marilyn Niven are barefoot, pregnant, ignorant, and in the kitchen, I have a bridge I hope I can persuade him to buy with some of his dot com millions.

And I don't recall trying to suppress astronomy, and my Christian Brothers teachers would be astonished at the suggestion. And see Below.

On Education:

Dear Jerry,

I thought I'd put my two bits in. After getting a BA in a double major ( PS and History) with emphasis on South America studies, in 1964, I left academia for 22 years returning in 1986 to start my graduate degrees. MA, PhD. The dummying down of course work and standards was so bad, I thought maybe, I had been transported to another planet or something. From 1959-1964 the undergraduate degree, was harder to get in four years than the graduate degrees.

Whatever, I just had to make a statement.


From Patricia Hausman

June 2, 2002 The Elderly Man and the Sea? Test Sanitizes Literary Texts By N. R. KLEINFIELD

At first, Jeanne Heifetz thought she had merely tripped over one of those quirks that occasionally worm their way into standardized tests. Words were missing from a book excerpt she was familiar with on a Regents English exam. But when she discovered a second extensively altered excerpt, she began to wonder, "If there were two, could there be more?" Was something sinister afoot?

So, driven by curiosity and her antipathy to the exams, she rounded up a batch of recent Regents tests, which New York State requires public high school students to take to graduate, and started double-checking the excerpts that serve as the basis for questions. What she found astonished her.

Astonished indeed.

Roland has some suggestions:

Sources and methods.

Hacking the X-Box. 


And that will have to do for today.





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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

More Short Shrift as I continue to work on Tower at Niven's house.

Eric Raymond's letter generates a lot of responses already. Here are a few.

Jerry, I've had this argument with other twits before, and I probably will again. Calling Reagan a "B movie actor" is a double cheap-shot. First, Reagan appeared in, and starred in many A movies. Second, B movies weren't the junk people think they were. B movies were low-budget films intended as second features, and many well-known names played in them. I doubt that people would call Sidney Tollier, Peter Lorry or Basil Rathbone poor actors, even though all the Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto and Sherlock Holmes movies they made were B's.

I checked the Internet Movie Database ( ) and found this quote:

In 1937 he went to Hollywood where, as a contract player for Warner Bros., he was groomed for stardom, playing leads in B pictures and supporting roles in A's. He had a pleasant screen presence, and was by no means as bad an actor as his detractors would have one believe. Nor was he strictly, as the press would have it, "a B-movie actor."

I very seriously doubt that Walt Disney would have picked anybody but a top star to host Disneyland's grand opening, and Reagan is the man he picked.

Please note that I'm not arguing about his politics or opinions. I just resent ad hominem arguments, of which this is an excellent example. Also, as a fan of B movies, I'd like to see them appreciated for what they really were, not sneered at for not being what they were never meant to be.

Joe Zeff

Well, we knew Mr. Reagan back in the 60's, and I found him more intelligent that some other politicians I have met. And he read a lot of books; something you can't say for everyone who held the Presidency. He once boasted to me that "Professor, I may have read more books than you have. I've sure read more than most people I meet have read." I find that boast a great deal more praiseworthy than most politicians's boasts.


Another response:


I self-identify as a "social liberal, fiscal conservative".

I disagree with Eric on Clinton, and disagree with the universality of the remaining 9, but agree that those nine are major traps that liberals fall into. 90% is a pretty good ratio.

Like the traps for liberals, the ten conservative traps are merely there to fall into. It doesn't mean that everyone goes there. Hopefully an intelligent and introspective liberal or conservative can avoid all of these traps.

Like the traps for liberals, the ten conservative traps are really only nine. I'm not sure that anyone in political power still thinks that "segregation, Jim Crow laws, and lynching" are pretty good ideas. Without an example to point to, this is a non-issue. Eric's inability to forgive today's members for the evils of their predecessors is likely a shortcoming in Eric, rather than the conservative movement. The stereotypes are worth discussing, if only as traps that either side can fall into.

G Goss





I read your site daily, along with several other predominantly conservative blogs. I do it both to broaden my outlook and because there is some damn fine commentary in here. However, it often becomes very frustrating to read some of the political editorializing because I consider myself a liberal democrat. If I may, I'd like to say this to some of your contributors:

The assertion that "All Liberals" are tree-hugging PC communists is EXACTLY as tiresome as that assertion that "All Conservatives" are fundies.

What is it about humans that we seem to have such a deep need to have an enemy? Seriously, find something else to think about if it makes you that upset. The best thing that I have ever learned in my relatively short 38 years is that HATE IS A WASTE OF YOUR LIFE ENERGY.

Owen Strawn

I fear I find nothing to argue with but I am left wondering so what? Most of the editors I have had to work with are "liberals" and many remain good friends, some after many years. I don't know anyone including Bill Buckley who thinks all liberals are tree hugging PC Communists. Indeed, the only Communists I know of now are tenured professors in major and state universities, and they tend to be a laughing stock among their students.

The question is not what one IS, but what one believes. If you can believe nonsense you are a person who can believe nonsense. Much political ideology is nonsense.

At philosophical bottom, conservatives tend to think that things not understood are best left alone until we do understand them, while liberals think that social institutions we don't understand can't have much in the way of a purpose and ought to be swept aside. Marriage, the family, most of the older social institutions I grew up with, were swept aside by the liberals as useless because they didn't understand what they were. Some liberal were persuaded by theories based on false data: it's now clear that Margaret Meade made up her data, or was gulled by not very clever Samoans and never bothered to open her eyes; yet from that came a whole theory of attack on Western family institutions.

Conservatives thought that Communists wanted to kill us or at least convert the world into places like Poland and Cuba and Hungary, and that if we didn't slow them to a halt they'd feed on new conquests and grow until they couldn't be stopped. Liberals thought nothing could stop them, and we'd all be killed trying; eventually that they'd fall of their own weight, but they didn't think that until it had already happened: recall that Gorbachev and Carter could each have won elections in the other's country but not in his own...

I'm sorry you read this place daily and seem to have got the wrong impression of what we do here. I agree with your conclusion, but I suspect that most of my readers had already reached that conclusion. This is not a place that encourages people who think in stereotypes.

On the other hand, hating spamsters may be good for the liver. And see below.




Now closure:

At the bottom of you kindly reprinted my request:

> Have a Soyo 7VIA with an AMD Athlon Classic 700mHz in service since Jan '01 with Crucial Tech RAM. > I built it for my gamer wife, Lea of the Dancing Hats, and inherited it after she moved on to an > Intel 815EEALU2/Pentium III so she could slay demons more efficiently in Baldur's Gate, Diablo II, et al. > > Recently, it boots, runs OK for several minutes, and then stops; locks up and blanks the video. > CPU temp is as low as 64F at lockup. > > If I pull/reinstall the CPU, that fixes it for several more minutes, and then it freezes again. > I do make sure the retainer tabs on the CPU cartridge are locked in place after reinserting it. > Remove-reinsert of other components does not solve the problem. > All the little fans are turning to their heart's content. > > The suggestions of Chaos Manor subscribers to keep this from recurring are appreciated.

Well, here's the result:

Shedding all possible load did not help (chassis fan, ZIP drive, CD-RW drive, 2nd HD). Power supply replacement as suggested did not help. Stabilant on CPU & card connections did not help. Replacing video card solved problem - the 3dfx Voodoo (purchased from Fry's ca. Jan 2001) was freezing the machine. Go figure.

-- John Bartley, KD7ROH, telcom admin, USBC/DO, Portland OR - Views are mine. Wireless FAQ for PalmOS(r) Handheld Cellular Data FAQ


IBM has reinvented the punch card.

Using plastic film and little teeny awls, IBM has managed to store data on plastic films with a density of some 5.5 gigabits per square centimeter, with an access speed of a few kilobits per second. They have taken the system through 100,000 read/write cycles to demonstrate its durability -- unlike Hollerith cards, the system can actually fill in the holes on the plastic medium.

IBM researchers estimate that the access speed can be boosted into the megabits per second range, and the system could possibly be refined to the point where it's addressing areas the size of an individual atom.

Full story: IBM's hot tip for data storage BBC News 

......Karl Lembke

Fascinating. Silicon is cheaper than iron, but plastic is cheaper than silicon...

An interesting story coming out of the Oklahoma bridge disaster.

Perhaps the name on the uniform was "Paunch-o Villa"


Dominick A. Trascritti 


From Robert Racansky, with some good sense:

The fear of radiation may be more harmful than the actual effects of a terrorist radiation weapon.

"Paper Tigers" By Iain Murray TECH CENTRAL STATION 06/11/2002

...Using materials less deadly to the maker, the problem is that not enough radiation is emitted to kill large numbers of people. A material like caesium-137, with a half-life of 30 years, would not kill many extra people. Most could simply walk out of the affected area after the blast and not suffer particularly badly. If people ingested fallout then they might develop cancer or suffer other ill effects later, but immediate radiation sickness would not be a particular worry. This is one of the reasons the Iraqis abandoned their program aimed at creating dirty nukes in 1987. As the New York Times commented, "the radiation levels were considered too low to achieve the grisly objectives" (William J. Broad, "Document Reveals 1987 Bomb Test by Iraq," New York Times, Apr. 29, 2001)....

There are certainly easier ways to kill a lot of people quickly.

On Mental Health (continues from last week)


You are absolutely right about the changes brought about in the mental health field. DSM IV certainly has been affected by the ideological currents that flow through the Mental Health profession.

In my current job I establish budgets for Mental Health Services in my home province in Canada. One of my responsibilities has been to brief senior management on trends in treatment and to forecast upcoming impacts that could require a fundamental rethinking of our services.

Change is certainly happening, but in two distinct streams. The first is the counseling side of the profession which adamantly clings to the belief that mental illness is not physiological but intrinsic and that the new cognitive theories have sufficiently met the needs of the clients. In fact they believe that they are so good that some managers have increased staffing and have selected strictly on the cognitive model for staffing purposes. This is the model that is in great vogue in most areas of North America and has resulted in a trend away from hospitalization and a greater level of community integration. However, it is yet to be proven as a treatment option as it has limited success in treating the toughest mental illnesses and seems to be effective against illnesses such as minor depression and anxiety which tend to be self-limiting in nature.

The changes that make the greatest effect, however, are the recent work on the physiological basis for mood disorders, depression, schizophrenia and many delusional psychoses. About ten years ago the first atypical antipsychotics (Clozapine) came on the market. This was a watershed moment in the treatment of the mentally ill. The drug had an immediate impact on behaviour, without the heavy sedation of the previous medications, and in subsequent evolutions has given full awareness to individuals previously trapped in their delusions or the Haldol daze. This is distributed strictly on a medical model with a psychiatrist providing the prescription and nurses providing follow-up and requires on-going and regular dosing.

But it has been a hard job to get the mental health professionals, both at the community and hospital levels, to use the new drug protocols effectively. With the memory of the old drugs still fresh the mental health industry sees the medicalisation of clients as something to be avoided. Meanwhile the ill suffer in silence while the witch doctors of counseling medicine shake their rattles and speak in tongues.

Eventually more than 1/2 of our client load is expected to be treated with the new drugs on an out-patient basis. The new drugs will become like insulin to the diabetic, not providing a cure but assuring ongoing good health. The new drugs not only mean better care they are substantially less expensive than the current acute treatment options which often result in a very limited case load for the mental health professionals. The new drug protocols will also likely mean that Community Treatment Orders, Mandatory Supervision, and Scheduled Maintenance Monitoring will become key words in the public Mental Health System. It is also felt that the remainder of the clients, although not completely well, will respond substantially an require the acquisition of social and work skills in order to lead more fulfilling lives. Again this is the type of work usually performed by semi-professional (i.e. BSW) workers earning substantially less than the accredited professionals. There is even a hope that many of the developmental diseases of the young can keep youth out of the system altogether as medical follow-up is provided by community medical practitioners.

This change has led to a considerable resistance to the use of the new medications in the community. The psychologists and social-workers that are the basis of the current treatment model fear that they will become like the psychiatric orderly of old, a dinosaur without a role to play. Hence the expansion of DSM IV diagnoses to conditions that are likely to result in a great deal of discussion with little hope of a positive outcome. . 

Allan Mason BA MpA Financial Analyst

Thank you. I expect this will generate a number of comments, including my own when I get a chance.

And Monty on Eric Raymond

Subj: Eric Raymond -- Just Another Clueless Ideologue

The recent Eric Raymond emission demonstrates yet again (as if we needed further demonstration) that ideologues of all varieties are simply incapable of imagining that someone might _not_ be an ideologue.

Consequently, neither the ideologues of the Left nor the Libertarians are able to understand The Most Important Thing about conservatism, to wit: that the most important historical lines of conservative thought are not ideological at all.

For details, your readers can read Russell Kirk, _The_Conservative_Mind_.

Alas, even most current contributors to _National_Review_, who should know better, often seem to write as if conservatism was an ideology. And one of the most disappointing things about Newt Gingrich, particularly in his generally excellent course, "Renewing American Civilization", is that he too seems to think of conservatism as an ideology.

Rod Montgomery ==

I have noticed that National Review and many of its contributors have slipped over the edge from being thoughtful conservatives : I think no sane person every accused Russell Kirk of thoughtlessness: to ideologues. I hope that as I age I do not fall into the same trap. It's an easy pit to fall into.

Gordon Runkle asks a good question:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Why are we still supporting this charade? 

Gordon Runkle

-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt

I am afraid I have no answer.

On Computer models:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I model (hydraulics) as a matter of vocation. I follow three "laws" in my application of computer models:

1. All computer models are wrong; some are useful

2. The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers

3. The primary purpose of computer modeling is heuristic

Perhaps it is the last that most journalists and environmentalists find easiest to attach themselves to.

Looking forward, as always, to the next column...

Rod Wittler

Agreed, entirely.






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Thursday, June 13, 2002

Eric on the new Mac Advertisements:

Continuing the ad industry's tradition of "Because you're too stupid for anything else!"

My favorite is the KCRW DJ who bought a Mac because she didn't like the speakers that came with her PC. I have to wonder if she takes the same approach to cars.

Runner ups are the IT guys who say they couldn't keep their PC's working. Note to any prospective employer: do not hire people who publicly proclaim their incompetence.

And of course their continue Guy Kawasaki's insulting assertion that you cannot be creative if you're a PC user. Apparently Mr. Em is an accountant and simply cannot admit it.

Eric Pobirs

No comment. No comment. None, do you hear?

It appears WGBH and/or PBS is a little embarrassed by whatever foolishness Lawrence May, Jr. found:  has been taken down.

  still works, thanks to Google's cache.

Of course, Russia does not have the 25MT bomb in service any more - and I kinda doubt OBL does, either. But, nothing like needlessly scaring the public, is there?

-- John Bartley, KD7ROH, telcom admin, USBC/DO, Portland OR - Views are mine. Wireless FAQ for PalmOS(r) Handheld Cellular Data FAQ

Ah well

not sure that anyone in political power still thinks that "segregation, ..." are pretty good ideas.

Actually, there are and I'm all for it; I want the smokers as far away from me as possible. Aren't most restaurants segregated? I do hate when I request non-smoking and they sit me next to a smoking table.

Gregory W. Brewer Flow-Cal, Inc. Energy Software Solutions (281) 282-0865

Then we have

Dirty secrets of working in Washington, DC.

Dear Doctor,

I am an IT contractor working on a government project in Washington, DC. And the point of this little missive is about dealing with the day-to-day stresses of commuting to the heart of the US Capital each morning. It is about knowing you are a target and the powers that be have no way of protecting you. Let me give you a sample of what my day is like.

First, there is very little parking in Washington, DC, and what there is has a huge expense. I take the Metro into town, about a 45 minute ride each way with all sorts of humanity. Not a bad trip, and I can read the whole way. But, in the last week, besides the Attorney-General's headline slamming revelation about a "dirty bomber", the FBI has warned that the Metro is a possible target for nerve-gas attacks. I carry a leatherman tool and a flashlight in case the Metro gets stuck in a tunnel without power. I carry a bottle of water in case I caught in another traffic jam like the one that kept me in DC for 5 hours on the day of 9-11. I already have a cell phone, but I no longer rely on it in an emergency, since the circuits were overloaded on 9-11, and I know there is no money to expand service in the bankrupt telcoms.

I walk the three blocks from the subway to my office, and open the mail. I am still a little leary of this exercise, because the main Washington, DC, Post Office, as well as the branch office I get my mail from, was closed and tested for anthrax last fall, and last week, again, there are rumors that White House staff are taking Cipro, as a remedy to anthrax exposure.

I go to the agency which is contracting my services, and I see the guard in his comfortable chair glance at my ID badge, barely keeping his eyes open. His partner is deeply involved with a head to toe eye search of the shapely secretary who entered the lobby at the same time I did. I enter the office of the contracting officer, who is taking weapons training. This mother of two, in her mid-40's, is worried. We talk about the project, and I get back to the office and work.

I am surrounded by real and imagined stress sources, and nothing seems to be getting done except some folks are making political hay from scaring the press into producing more headlines. The US seems to have no one making realistic choices about security, and no one is even putting up a specific target for the war. And I am not alone in this exposure to stress. My son watched a jet plane slam into the Pentagon on 9-11, from the training grounds on his base along the Potomac River, and was busy with victims' families for a month. The US Postal substation for the White House is on his base, and it was closed and "gassed" for exposure to anthrax. The substation is located next to his barracks.

I have muscle aches, fevers, and other psychosomatic illnesses every week.I just keep going to work, even though I hurt, because I know it is just stress, and staying home is letting the terrorist win. I know that in a small part what I do helps make the country a little safer, since I am integrating two of the "stovepipe" applications targeted in the Homeland Security plan. I just wish my nerves would adjust to being constantly bombarded with "warnings" and "alerts" that only make me alarmed and stressed.

Jon Eveland

My sympathies.

And Roland says, Here's the computer you REALLY want... 

As well as

Narrowing it down. 


And now for something different:

You might find this interesting.........

I received spam from Microsoft, thought that I could trust them to remove me from their spam list, clicked the remove link, and got this:

>To reach the Profile Center, you will need to give us your Passport >and password, so we can be certain someone isn't impersonating you. >If you haven't registered with us before, we will ask you to create a >Passport. Why? So we can be certain we never send mail unless you say >so.

Am I crazy or are they? I have to create a "Passport" with them so that they will be sure to send me no more spam? Does this mean that by refusing to create a "Passport" I am agreeing to receive their spam?

Best, Henry

-- Henry Harpending Department of Anthropology University of Utah 270 S. 1400 East Room 102 Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0060 USA phone:801 581 3776 fax: 801 583 3199 home: 801 582 7760

And I'm not sure what they mean here. Probably yes, you agree to receive spam from them unless you take out a Passport that allows them to send you spam.

Here's a Trotsky-ite take on the late S.J. Gould. 

Julie Woodman

Trotsky lives...


@ The Army is modifying two old AH-1 Cobra helicopters into unmanned vehicles, and expects to have them flying next year. They will retain a seat for the pilot. This would allow them to be ferried to the battle area, and to have a safety officer on board when used in wargames and exercises. These will be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Stinger air-to-air missiles, and 20mm machine cannons. As there are plenty of old Cobras being retired, these could provide a source for cheap and deadly combat drones.


And finally for the day

New at noon: New computer virus can infect picture files D. IAN HOPPER AP Technology Writer on Thursday, June 13

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new computer virus is the first ever to infect picture files, an anti-virus firm reported Thursday, making sharing family photos on the Internet a potentially dangerous activity.

The virus, dubbed Perrun, is not currently infecting computers but worries anti-virus experts because it is the first to cross from program infection into data files, long considered safe from malicious data.

"Our concern is more for what might be coming," said Vincent Gullotto, head anti-virus researcher at McAfee Security. "Potentially, no file type could be safe."

Until now, viruses infected program files -- files that can be run on their own. Data files, like movies, music, text and pictures, were safe from infection. While earlier viruses deleted or modified data files, Perrun is the first to infect them.

Perrun still needs some tweaking to become dangerous. The virus arrives via e-mail or a floppy disk as an executable file. Security experts always warn against opening programs sent as e-mail attachments.

Once run, the file drops an "extractor" component onto the victim's hard drive. When a computer user clicks on a picture file with the extension .JPG -- a common picture file found on the Web -- it is infected before it appears. Because the picture displays normally, Gullotto said, the victim may not know there's anything wrong.

In its current form, an infected JPG file sent to a friend or placed on a Web site isn't dangerous without the extractor file. But Gullotto said there's no reason a virus writer couldn't stuff the entire virus code into the JPG, making the picture file a virus itself.

That evolution should make computer users think twice about sending pictures -- or any other media -- over the Internet, Gullotto said.

"I think there's a possibility that this could change the playing field," he said. "Going forward, we may have to rethink about distributing JPGs."

McAfee researchers received the virus from its creator. Gullotto declined to identify the author, and McAfee anti-virus software can detect and remove Perrun.

Perrun is known as a proof-of-concept virus, and does not cause damage. Gullotto said he fears that virus writers may use Perrun as a template to create a more destructive version.


On the Net:

McAfee Labs: 









This week:


read book now


Friday, June 14, 2002

Before we get into fun, here's a serious message for ATI users:


You are probably overrun with people telling you of this, but ATI has released a new driver set for their Radeon line of video cards. The driver is version 6094, named "Catalyst."

They promise performance improvements. I can't confirm because I haven't tested yet (but my initial impression is that they are spry enough) but the promised improvement in display quality is readily apparent. The difference is significant enough to bring them to your attention.

I installed the new drivers over the last version (6071) and experienced no trouble in Windows XP. While others may have a different experience it looks to me like the effort ATI has put into improving their driver installer has paid off.

They also released new DVD and video capture software to go along with the new driver.

All available from The link occupies a good quarter of the page. The driver package alone is about 10MB and their board was bog slow today so it may lend itself to one of those overnight downloads, but it looks like they are worth the effort.

Regards and thanks

Ron Morse

As it happens,  Captain Morse is the first to tell me this. I'll download as soon as I have the satellite link up again.




Eric's comments on the Apple ads are cute (I haven't seen the ads yet). But in every company I've seen over the last decade, the Macs "just work" and the PCs suck up resources. I've administered NetWare, UNIX, and every version of Windows from 3.0 through XP, and none of them "just work" like my Mac and NeXT computers. The Mac is the Maytag of personal computing, which is why I.T. people hate it.

So keep it up, Eric. Tell people to ignore the Apple ads. Make fun of the people in the ads. The more Windows users there are, the more "I.T. technicians" and other "service personnel" are employed, and after all, America is now a "service economy."

It could be a slogan. "Buy a PC to keep America employed!"

Steve Setzer

I am going to let you and him fight, but I find your letter interesting.

 My experience with Apple is that it is futile to spend much time at it: futile for me, in what I do, not necessarily for you. 

They don't send me anything to review now. When they used to, I never heard from them unless I said something they didn't like. By anything they didn't like I include even minor criticisms: anything but fulsome praise was met with a barrage of emails and letters and other forms of harassment, some organized by Apple's marketing people. 

It was painful enough that I, like a lot of journalists, decided that it just wasn't worth it. Most people in my business either became Apple specialists or gave up on Apple altogether.

I think the best comment on Apple is Peter Glaskowsky's: With Apple everything is either very simple or it's impossible. Many things are very simple, and I could operate Chaos Manor with Apple equipment and do all the things I do, or most of them. Unfortunately I'd be writing for a pretty small readership, and it doesn't look likely to get a great deal larger. Apple, for better or worse, has never gone for market share over immediate profits, and I doubt they ever will.

I keep meaning to buy a new Apple system; their near-UNIX OS has things worth examining. This column started as opposition to the whole User-Hostile UNIX way of doing things. If they have made UNIX user-friendly while keeping its power, they deserve attention. 

With Apple, everything is simple or impossible. The question is, what's simple, and what's impossible. With Windows most things are possible, but fewer things are very simple, and some of them are very difficult. 

We'll see. I keep meaning to buy an Apple system but other things keep happening, like the 533 MHz FSB and 2.53 GHz Pentium 4 systems. I only have so much time. I really wish that the old BYTE with Tommy Thompson on Mac and all the gang at Peterborough were still around. I can't do it all, and I can't even afford to try...

Now for a very good question:

Tornado Notes (for the Palm?)

You've written a few times about the original simple TN, and I too lost interest when it became overfeatured. Now that I am jumping into the Palm world, I'm looking for a simple note file system like TN was. Have u any experiences or suggestions?

Mark Richler

"It is better to wear out than rust out": Bishop of Cumberland

I have sort of given up on Palm although I may take it up again. I found I just wasn't using it much. Tornado Notes became Info Select and while it is very good, I just never found I used it the way I used the old Tornado Notes. One of my problems is that I use a lot of computers at once, and I don't have a simple note system that lets me take notes on many machines then consolidate them all onto one master file. 

But you have a good question, and we'll see what the readers have to say.

On Spam:

Roland sent this, about Spam Assassin Pro, and those who use UNIX systems should take notice: 

And we have


The email below showed up in my inbox the other day. Now anyone can spam millions of people for only a few hundred dollars (if you do the emailing yourself). Isn't technology wonderful??!!

I think that the problem here is that snail-mail marketers have to pay a significant charge to get their materials produced and delivered, while email spam costs almost nothing to produce and very little to send. This shifts the cost burden (both in money and time) from the mailer to the recipient. I am not sure that I see a way to shift it back to the sender without regulation, and I always worry about the unintended consequences of the typically ham-handed legislation on anything related to technology.

Perhaps a better solution would be smarter, easier to use anti-spam tools in Outlook and other email programs. For example, why can't I just point at an email and tell Outlook not to accept any more emails from that address. Or how about highlighting a word in the subject line and just clicking one button to add it to the blocked list. The current tools in Outlook are clumsy, non-intuitive and not easy to find for casual users. If Microsoft made this a priority, I am sure that they could make an order of magnitude improvement by adding an anti-spam tool bar at the top of the Outlook window. If Microsoft won't do it, this would seem to me to be a great opportunity for some enterprising startup to penetrate this market. Based on your complaints in the "View" and your columns, I have to believe that you (and many like you) would switch in a minute if such a tool were available and really worked.

Keep up the great work, and here's hoping that you and Niven finish "Burning Tower" soon.

Regards, John DeVries

Outlook has a simple way to consign all future messages from a particular address to Junk Email. The problem is that the address changes with each iteration of the spam, so that doesn't work. I have often thought that spammers who go to great lengths to avoid anti-spam rules must be nuts: no one who is trying to avoid them is going to buy from them. But I think Eric is right, something extremely unpleasant and physical has to notoriously happen to a number of spammers before the others are deterred. Perhaps not drawing and quartering, although if other measures don't work we might consider that.

Outlook does need modifications: in particular it needs to be able to list a number of alternative domains to reject without having to come up with a separate rule for each. 

The next text is spam. To skip it click here.


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Electronic mail has overtaken the telephone as the primary means of business communication.(American Management Association)

Of online users 41 percent check their email daily.

"A gold mine for those who can take advantage of bulk email programs"- The New York Times

"Email is an incredible lead generation tool" -Crains Magazine

"Blows away traditional Mailing"-Advertising Age

"It's truly arrived. Email is the killer app so far in the online world"-Kate Delhagen, Forrester Research Analyst

Why not let a professional company handle your direct email marketing

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One would think there could be ways to make these people accountable, but I don't suppose there are. 

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

 I believe I recall mention that you had something to do with the design of the Minuteman Missile. In any case, you may be interested in the following: 

Neal Pritchett


From Roland:

Incompetent empire,3604,736462,00.html 

Also from Roland, more Microsoft holes:

You're 'it'. 

Self esteem in the People's Republic...

And closure

Dear Dr Pournelle, So Mr Bartley's problem had to do with a 3Dfx Voodoo AGP card. And it looks like my suggestion helped him waste his money on a power supply. The only consolation I draw from this is that others jumped to the same conclusion.

I do wonder if the AGP card problem was related to the known issue with Athlons running a VIA chipset under Windows 2000. (Microsoft has a fix accessible from ).

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.

And from Jim Carr, something that should be astonishing but of course is not astonishing at all. Once a corpse is dead there is nothing astonishing about carrion eaters.


More on the sorry state of education. No durable link to article posted yet. Links on page give all the details. 

June 13 -- "Student gets diploma after threatening lawsuit". "A threatening letter from her lawyer and an opportunity to retake an exam hours before graduation helped a West Valley high school student get her diploma last month. ... On May 22, Stan Massad, a Glendale attorney representing the Peoria family, faxed a letter to [English teacher Elizabeth] Joice asking her to take 'whatever action is necessary' for the student to graduate or the family would be forced to sue. 'Of course, all information regarding your background, your employment records, all of your class records, past and present, dealings with this and other students becomes relevant, should litigation be necessary,' he wrote to the teacher." (Monica Alonzo-Dunsmoor, Arizona Republic, Jun.10; lawyer's letter; teacher's response; Joanne Jacobs, Jun. 12).

In fact this sounds like a made up story. The horrible thing is that we can't KNOW it is made up, and we have the horrible suspicion that it is not.

And then we have:

Article in Forbes on Patent abuse. The notion presented is that the indiscriminate issuing of patents does more to hurt innovation thn to encourage it. It also touches on the fact that the Patent Office has become a significant source of revenue for the government due to the large volume of patents being issued now. 

A quote from the article, concerning a meeting between Sun and IBM over IBM' s claim that Sun infringed on some patents of theirs. IBM presented their case, Sun followed by presenting their counter case:

> An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer > among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, > the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe > these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really > want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find > seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and > just pay us $20 million?"

> After a modest bit of negotiation, Sun cut IBM a check, and the blue > suits went to the next company on their hit list.

The company I was with about 10 years ago was in a similar situation (though NOT with IBM). Since we were nearly broke at the time, and had little to lose, we told the other party to take a long walk on a short pier. And we never heard from them again. I guess we were lucky.

The patent at issue in our case involved using a modem to send a computer file from computer to another as part of a service bureau.

David Reynolds

Ain't empire wonderful? It tends to be rule of the lawyers.

More on a previous story:


As a resident of the Phoenix West Valley area, I can unfortunately confirm that the Student who threatened to sue was indeed allowed to retake the test and to graduate. What is even more reprehensible about the whole affair was that it was done against the wishes of the teacher who was willing to air her background and record in public. The school administration in a closed meeting ordered the retaking of the test and the names of those passing this decision remains somewhat murky. Unfortunately this is just another chapter in the state of Arizona's dismal public education history. The schools remain unaccountable for their performance and now the students do too.

Richard Carleton

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Sadly, the story about the family suing the teacher to insure that their brat^H^H^H^Hdear child graduated is true.

Here is the link to the article in the "Arizona Republic":

Here is the actual text of the scum^H^H^H^Hlawyer's letter:

and the teacher's response:

Apparently, the teacher was resolved to stand firm (good!), but her school administration forced her to knuckle under (hisss!). I particularly like her last paragraph, she's got spunk! :-)

But here's what the school district (damn their souls to Hell) did: 

The Arizona Republic ran a good cartoon about it, too: 

The state Bar is now investigating the lawyer, Stan Massad: 

Searching for "Stan Massad" in the paper turns up quite a few hits.

I weep for America, but I hold out hope that nost people are still decent and will wake up and throw the rascals out before it is too late.


Gordon Runkle

-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt


Well  the lawyers names are known now; surely the Arizona Bar will review the ethics of that kind of threatening letter? Or perhaps not. But we have:

"In fact this sounds like a made up story."

I'll agree it sounds too horrible to be true, but it is. Yesterday, the Arizona Republic published full copies of the lawyer's (grammatically-challenged) letter and the teacher's reply (in which she suggested his clients would do better spending their money on summer school tuition than on his fees). The whole state is in an uproar. The Peoria administrators who caved under pressure are not giving interviews. Best news is that the Bar is investigating the attorney.

Regards, Tim Herbst

So perhaps there is hope yet. A little anyway.

Or perhaps there isn't.

Al Gore, Frightening Possible Terrorist: 

Schadenfreude aside, this is yet another story that would be a preposterous urban legend if it weren't true.

I feel so secure now! Really. Honest.

--Erich Schwarz

We have come to the point where rules are far more important than any possible reason or outcome for the rules. And why not?

The next step will be empire, and arbitrary power, simply so we can stop having so many stupid rules. But at least we're secure now.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 15, 2002

Subject: Virus as DDOS attack?

One of the more unpleasant aspects--to me anyway--of some of these new email virii is their ability to send emails with forged return addresses and to send forged "bounce" messages.

I run Norton on my home system, set to check daily for updates and also to run a full system check every night (scanning all files, not just "programs"). The computer I use at work runs McAfee, also updated daily. Both systems are set to scan all incoming attachments before allowing access and both have "heuristic" scanning turned on to check for "virus-like activity." With all that, I think that if I'd been infected with Klez, I would know it. Yet I keep getting messages from people that claim I sent them a virus, many of these messages automated replies from AV software. On top of that I get "bounces" from places I never sent anything and which aren't anywhere in my address book.

I get as much of this stuff as I get of spam in any given day.

I wonder if maybe this, is the "primary" goal of these new viruses and the infection itself is of secondary importance. Maybe the hoodlums who make and distribute these virii get there jollies more from the clogging of net traffic than from the damage to individual systems.

Maybe something permanent and physical needs to start happening to these guys.

In the meantime, the only defense I have at the moment is setting up a rule to drop all mail with attachments into a single folder. I can then quickly delete all the things that aren't legitimate. This minimizes the fuss, but it's still a pain.

David L. Burkhead "May I be just half the person mailto:dburkhuad @ my dog thinks I am." Science Fiction -- Judo -- Space -- Science -- Cars

You aren't infected. Someone who has your mail address in his address book is infected. KLEZ sends to people in an address book and forges someone else in that book as the sender. You got lucky. Happened to me not long ago.

From Sue on an old subject:


As a mom who often finds herself policing the playground after school, I understand the tag ban completely.

The principal and vice-principal have the right instincts, they just needed to get rid of the PC reasoning.

Unfortunately, there are too many children in school today with little self-control and lots of aggression. Consequently, a game of tag can rapidly deteriorate into a game of beating up or harassment.

If a child can't get rid of a tag due to size, age, or ability, that child then becomes the object of ridicule. The game changes from one of chase and fun to one of let's pick on the "it".

Children might lightly tag the first time, but if the tagged child ignores the tag, the tagging becomes more aggressive. Tagging becomes tackling.

I can't tell you how many times I break up wrestling matches that start as tag. Where are the parents you ask? Well, sometimes they are at work and the nanny sitting on the bench, just refuses to step in.

Or, in one case I am very familiar with, the mother is too depressed herself to step in and stop her son. Her son, sad to say, is a budding sociopath. This child of 9 told our 13-year old daughter the other day: I like beating up people. And you know what, he means it.

There are so many emotionally fragile children in school now-days.

I agree with the decision of no tag with the proper amount of supervision. Lunchtime playgrounds are disasters waiting to happen. There is precious little supervision because teachers are at lunch and supervision is left to aides.

There is a dearth of parenting in America. People are too busy out making money so they can pay $70 each time they pull that $50,000 SUV up to the pump.


Several points here. Trivially, I drove and International Harvester Scout for years before anyone ever heard of SUV's. All four of my boys had their first accidents in that Scout and they all walked away from them. And the Scout went to Cabo San Lucas on The Road back before there was a paved highway even as far as San Quentin...  I drive a  four-wheel because once in a while I get out to the desert, and I like it, and I pay about $25 to fill it.

But I agree that the two-income family short-changes children, and very much so. I don't know what you do about that. The second income pays the taxes that allow all the bad schools to get more money to get worse. And bureaucrats have to eat too, don't they?

As to schools, give the low justice to principals. The alternatives: take being whacked or be thrown out of that school. Maintain a second tier of schools for discipline problem kids, and a junkyard school for those who can't manage in the disciplinary schools. Yes, some kids will be unjustly expelled or whacked; some principals will abuse their arbitrary power. But at the moment the 85% of the kids in the class who want to learn are taxed to support a couple of disruptive kids who can't be removed and won't be quiet.

As to bullies, we used to know how to deal with them in rural Tennessee but I presume that our modern civilization has forgotten.

Here is one that is not unexpected:

The current issue of Forbes, May 27, 2002, pg. 52 (The Informer):

"Posing as computer help-desk employees, U. S. Treasury inspectors telephoned 100 Internal Revenue Service workers at random, asking them to change their password to one the callers specified. According to recent congressional testimony, an astounding 71% complied, meaning total strangers could gain access to the supposedly secure IRS computer systems."

Lawrence T. May, Jr.

Yes, yes, of course...

And some research from Eric Schwartz:


At times, when I see the endless liberal-conservative row, I'm reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1854:

"I have a respect for conservatism. I know how deeply founded it is in our nature, and how idle are all attempts to shake ourselves free from it. We are all conservatives, half Whig, half Democrat, in our essences: and might as well try to jump out of our skins as to escape from our Whiggery. There are two forces in Nature, by whose antagonism we exist; the power of Fate, Fortune, the laws of the world, the order of things, or however else we choose to phrase it, the material necessities, on the one hand, -- and Will or Duty or Freedom on the other.

"May and Must, and the sense of right and duty, on the one hand, and the material necessities on the other: May and Must. In vulgar politics the Whig goes for what has been, for the old necessities, -- the Musts. The reformer goes for the Better, for the ideal good, for the Mays. But each of these parties must of necessity take in, in some measure, the principles of the others. Each wishes to cover the whole ground; to hold fast *and* to advance. Only, one lays the emphasis on keeping, and the other on advancing. I too think the *musts* are a safe company to follow, and even agreeable. But if we are Whigs, let us be Whigs of nature and science, and so for all the necessities. Let us know that, over and above all the *musts* of poverty and appetite, is the instinct of man to rise, and the instinct to love and help his brother."

Another perspective by David Friedman:

"I have been arguing politics for a long time. In arguing with people on the left, I find it is very hard to come to an agreement on the assumed facts surrounding the situations we are judging. My imaginary capitalist has capital because he worked hard clearing part of the boundless forest while his employee to be was being lazy and living on what he could gather -- so it is entirely just that the capitalist gets part of the output of his land and his employee's labor. But the leftist doesn't like that hypothetical. His imaginary capitalist inherited his capital from a father who stole it. I don't like that hypothetical. I conclude that our moral intuitions are similar enough so that the same assumed facts push both of us in the same direction -- and since we want to go in opposite directions we want to assume different facts."

--Erich Schwarz

I have known David Friedman for many years, and he's the most difficult opponent in debate that I know of. His books are always worth reading.

I confess I haven't encountered Emerson since college, but he always did make good sense.

I would not call this a "row"; the matter is of some importance.

Mr Pournelle;

I thought you might be interested in this. It's an excerpt from Robert Parker's (scientist in DC) newsletter.

It really does not need comment. I do wonder what is going on though.

Andy G


2. DIRTY STORY: IF YOU CAN'T CLASSIFY IT, CREATE A NEW HEADLINE. On Sunday, FBI screw ups prior to 9/11 were on every talk show. By Monday, congressional committees were fighting over who would get to hear the first public testimony from FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley. The White House urgently needed an intelligence success. So what are news managers for? On Tuesday, it was announced that Abdullah al-Muhajir, described as the key figure in a plot to explode a dirty bomb in Washington, DC, had been arrested at O'Hare International Airport. Failures of the FBI vanished from the news. Lucky timing? Not exactly. Muhajir, a US citizen, had been arrested a month earlier, and was secretly held in a military prison, without charges, until he was needed. The media did the rest, feeding on the public's exaggerated fear of radiation even pictures of mushroom clouds. President Bush was shown on television explaining that "Padilla is a bad guy." It's probably true, but then, that's why we have trials isn't it?

I am not so certain this doesn't need comment. Our authorities may be a bit inept, particularly at public relations; but in this world there are tigers, as well as champions of political correctness. A bit of sanity would work wonders here.

And those who champion Rowley while denouncing the FBI for the Padilla case are inconsistent: there is certainly as much reason to arrest Padilla as there was to give Rowley the warrants she wanted.

And then there is this: 

June 15, 2002 Report Provides New Details of Soviet Smallpox Accident By WILLIAM J. BROAD and JUDITH MILLER

Soviet field test of weaponized smallpox caused an outbreak in 1971 that killed two children and a young woman before health teams disinfected homes, quarantined hundreds of people and administered nearly 50,000 emergency vaccine shots, a new report asserts.

The outbreak struck Aralsk, a port on the Aral sea in what was then the Kazakh Republic. The report says a ship doing ecological research sailed too close to a military smallpox test that sent out a deadly plume of germs, infecting a crew member who carried the virus back to the city.

Moscow has never acknowledged the outbreak or that it ever tested smallpox in the open air. But late last year, a former top official in the Soviet germ weapons program spoke of the incident in an interview with a Moscow newspaper, and Kazakh officials have recently been investigating the outbreak's origins.

Now a team of experts at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, drawing on formerly secret Soviet documents and interviews with survivors, has written a report on the Aralsk outbreak.

The team says the strain of smallpox virus appears to have been unusually potent and even sickened seven people vaccinated against the disease. The episode, the researchers say, raises questions about whether new vaccines or drugs might be needed if this strain were used in an attack.

"We know that the vaccine works well in the vast majority of cases," Alan P. Zelicoff, a team member who is also a physician and smallpox expert at the Sandia National Laboratories, said in an interview. "What the new data strongly suggests is that we have much more work to do on new vaccines and the development of antiviral drugs, none of which are available today."

There is a lot more in the story. Note that we don't have vaccinations in the US nor do we have much vaccine.





This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 16, 2002

Hi Jerry,

As you may recall, Microsoft briefly included a terrific spam filter in one of the beta releases of IE5. This spam filter didn’t rely on entering endless rules, but the latest in Bayesian Networks, the dominant trend in AI today. The spam filter “learns” by using sophisticated probability algorithms to screen out spam. Eric Horvitz, one of the pioneers of Bayesian networks, developed the spam filter as a Microsoft researcher.

Unfortunately, given Microsoft’s reputation, a greeting card company immediately sought a restraining order against the feature because the spam filter categorized their email as spam (--despite the fact that Microsoft’s own electronic greeting cards were also categorized as spam by the software). Microsoft, under siege by the DOJ, elected to drop the feature rather than garner further bad press by fighting it in court.

So, next time you curse the company, remember that sitting on a Microsoft researcher’s computer hard drive resides the solution to your spam problem. Government antitrust actions seem to be a two edge sword in this case, stifling the software titan’s own innovations.

Best wishes,


Don Barker

"...religions are a democracy of beliefs while science is a dictatorship of facts." --Ludwig Krippahl

Wonderful. Thanks. Incidentally religions and science don't address the same problems. Religions address the problem of why is man the measure of all things, or is he, and if he isn't, what is important, if anything is.

For more on the Bayesian filter.








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